A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – Money for their captivity in Iran
If a human life is invaluable — which it is — then what are 444 days of a person’s life worth?
For more than 30 years, that question has dogged the U.S. government and the 53 Americans taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979. One of the infrequent stories about the hostages and their families is the long struggle in seeking compensation for their ordeal. Thirty-seven of the hostages are still alive.
That struggle is over. The living hostages and the estates of the deceased are now eligible for payments up to $4.4 million each thanks to the omnibus spending bill signed into law earlier this month. Spouses and children of deceased hostages are eligible for lump-sum payments up to $600,000 each, The New York Times reported this week. The living hostages will receive up to $10,000 per day of captivity, though the final amounts are undetermined because of myriad legal hurdles yet to be cleared. Money for the payments became available, The Times reported, when a Paris-based bank paid a $9 billion penalty for breaking sanctions against Iran.
The compensation is long overdue, but it doesn’t replace the human toll of spending 400-plus days in captivity in Tehran.
The Birmingham News – A vision of amazing love without burning down the church
When I looked down the row of chairs, the potential fire hazard was apparent. My three sons were in close proximity to lit candles. We separated them between my family members to reduce the likelihood of the candlelight service becoming a bonfire service.
With one of my sons sleeping on my chest, I looked down the row in the dark room filled with hundreds of flickering flames. I saw my family. I saw my wife. And my other two sons were simply mesmerized by it all.
My heart was overflowing. And then it struck me.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As a father, I can’t imagine sacrificing any of my sons to save a friend, let alone someone who had become my enemy. That strikes me as utter lunacy.
That’s the point.
That’s how strong a love it takes to save a broken wretch like me. Jesus’s arrival in the manger is at the crossroads of God’s radical love and my desperate need for redemption.
I don’t want to accept that. I want to repair the wrecked parts of my character and the world on my own. If I earn it, I’m entitled to it. If I’m entitled to it, I can set myself apart—relishing in my own smug superiority.
The Decatur Daily – Good tidings of great joy
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.”
Dothan Eagle – Keep calm
In the fall of 1939, a day after Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany, the nation created its Ministry of Information to handle press and publicity at home and abroad. Among its tasks was settling a population anxious about Britain’s entry into the Second World War. One of its productions, a red poster featuring a crown and the words “Keep Calm and Carry On,” was part of that initiative, although the placard was not widely deployed.
The image emerged 70-odd years later as an icon of popular culture, both in its original form and in various clever reiterations.
Its message, however, is one worthy of reconsideration these days, as we’re experiencing an uneasy and dangerous cocktail of political posturing, rancorous debate over guns in America and an unpredictable and ill-defined enemy. The result is a growing fear that’s begun to creep into every corner of hometown America and is destined to foment irrational decisions or, worse, policy.
On the political front, candidate Donald Trump’s public appearances have occasionally degenerated into violent mobs. In a Republican debate last week, candidate Chris Christie called President Obama “a feckless weakling,” saying the president has damaged the nation before the world. While competing philosophies on policy issues is a hallmark of representative government, name-calling has no place in the halls of government.
Then there’s anxiety here at home. Recently, Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms joined the growing number of law enforcement officials in urging residents to arm themselves.
The Enterprise Ledger – Santa, the temperature is nice, but I want more
Dear Santa, my sister in Austin, Texas, said the wild parakeets are so confused with summer-like temperatures that they were still hanging around her city’s high wires just like the sparrows this week, just a few days before Christmas. My question is: There are wild parakeets living in Austin, Texas?
Regardless, I don’t blame the parakeets. Enjoy this anomaly. I say bah humbug to the winter, having lived in Northwest Arkansas for so long it felt like Northwest Antarctica at times. If you can bring snowfall in 55-degree weather, bring it. Otherwise, let Mrs. Claus and the Reindeer just slip and slide through the stuff all they wish, just let ‘em do it a long way north of here.
So, thanks for the weather Saint Nick. I really ‘preciate it.
Now let’s get down to business.
Here’s my Christmas list:
I want an obedient dog. I’ll settle for one that doesn’t play deaf when it’s convenient for her.
I want a magical wand that will erase pounds while I watch college football from the couch. That would really be awesome, Nick ol’ boy. If you can pull that one off, you can end here.
I want everyone that is offended to stop being offended if it’s just a little thing, and you know as well as anyone, Nick, that most things we at first deem big end up being quite minuscule.
TimesDaily – Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
— Virginia O’Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
The Gadsden Times – Reaction to Harvey’s gaffe proves eyes constantly watching
The Twittersphere actually exists — the Oxford English Dictionary says so — and it never percolates any harder than when somebody famous or obscure does or says something stupid, or makes a whopper of a mistake.
Exhibit A: Steve Harvey.
Harvey, for the uninitiated, is one of the more prominent media personalities these days. He’s written books, hosts a morning radio show and two television programs (his own talk and variety show and the game show “Family Feud”), is an actor, did stand-up comedy for nearly 30 years and has a dating website. He’s been honored with 11 NAACP Image Awards and has won three Daytime Emmy Awards.
That’s a pretty stout résumé, but it may have been undone by one gaffe — and it definitely was a whopper — during what should’ve been a quick and painless paycheck for someone with Harvey’s skills.
Last weekend, Harvey hosted the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas. Like a typical beauty pageant, the drama built throughout the evening until the final two contestants remained — Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines, one of whom would be Miss Universe and the other the first runner-up.
Harvey proclaimed Miss Colombia as the winner, she donned her crown and was performing her ritual walk and wave for the audience when things went about as awry as a shoot (rasslin’ lingo for a real fight) in the WWE.
Harvey had botched the announcement. Miss Philippines actually was the winner. The host had to apologize, and Miss Colombia had to be uncrowned.
The Huntsville Times – When did we quit talking, or even thinking, about peace?
It took a parody Twitter account to shake me by the shoulders, slap me across the face and bring my attention to something we’ve all been missing. A week ago, Dick Nixon, an ongoing act of performance art worth a follow if you’re into that sort of thing, tweeted a word that has fallen out of our lexicon almost entirely.
Obviously there’s an irony to that word even being uttered by a parody account of a dead president Hunter Thompson once described as a kind of evil only someone who believes in the physical reality of the Devil could understand. Nixon was not a peaceful person, and his presidency was not peaceful, either.
But it was a word the real Nixon unironically used often, either when promising “peace with honor” in our withdrawal from Vietnam, or in his last memoir, “Beyond Peace.”
Peace then was something people wanted.
His predecessor, Lyndon Johnson wasn’t afraid to speak of peace, either, even in his infamous attack ad against Goldwater, who he portrayed as a dangerous soul who might lead us into nuclear combat.
In the ad, the little blond girl counts the petals of a daisy before being obliterated by a nuclear fireball.
“These are the stakes,” Johnson says in the voiceover. “To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”
Press-Register – Peace at Christmas time, and remembering a battle from long ago
This Christmas season is also the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in the history of the United States. On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched an enormous offensive through the quiet, thinly defended Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Adolf Hitler and planners in Berlin achieved total surprise; initially German forces rapidly gained ground.
For Europeans among the Allies, the attack was eerily reminiscent of the 1940 German drive which overran France and secured Nazi domination of the continent. Among Dwight D. Eisenhower’s associates at Supreme Allied Headquarters, fear was visible, along with alarm.
The tide of the battle did not clearly turn until Gen George S. Patton’s Third Army broke through to the 101st Airborne Division, surrounded by the Wehrmacht in the crossroads town of Bastogne, on the day after Christmas.
Brutal fighting continued through January. Nazi hopes of breaking the Western Front, and the Anglo-American alliance, were defeated.
Other battles in U.S. history were in certain respects more costly or complicated. During the Civil War, Gettysburg and other engagements resulted in a higher percentage of casualties among combatants. During the Second World War, such enormous amphibious invasions as Normandy, Iwo Jima and Leyte Gulf in the Philippines were inherently more complex in logistical terms than the Bulge. In the European theatre, the scale of the war on the eastern front was much greater than in the west.
Nonetheless, in American history the Battle of the Bulge remains our biggest single land engagement. Approximately a quarter of a million United States troops were pitted against a comparable number of German forces.
Montgomery Advertiser – A lifetime of Civil Rights icons in a single year
There are times when this job I have, like all jobs, is incredibly frustrating.
It can be incredibly sad. And occasionally, even incredibly boring.
But then, there are days when it is, quite simply, incredible.
At the end of each year in the news business, it is habit to go searching back through the stories that were printed in the previous 12 months. Often times, this is a mindless exercise.
But as I looked back over this past year, I realized quickly that it was different.
It is not often that you sit and chat for hours on end with men and women who quite literally changed a country.
I did it for most of the year.
Fred Gray, Rep. John Lewis, Rev. Robert and Jeannie Graetz, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Rev. Willie Bolden.
That’s an impressive list of men and women who stood up to unthinkable injustices and intimidation, who swallowed their fears, planted their feet and refused to budge an inch when it came to the most sacred promises of America – freedom and equality for all.
One February afternoon, I sat with Gray for two hours as he recounted story after story. Like the time he went to court in Selma in an attempt to get a black Air Force sergeant acquitted of nuisance charges for blowing his car horn at a white driver who didn’t go when a traffic light turned green. It was one of the few Gray lost.
As he was leaving, Gray was told that the guy who drove him over to Selma had been arrested on the suspicious charge of “drinking in the courtroom.” That matter was only settled when the Selma PD agreed to let the driver go if “that fancy attorney from Montgomery” didn’t cross the bridge back into Selma again.
Opelika-Auburn News – Plenty of Christmas spirit in this area
Nothing promotes the Christmas holiday spirit better than the giving of time and attention to others.
The Lee County area is fortunate to be blessed with individuals and organizations keeping that spirit alive this year by way of gifts and service to area needy.
Here are but a few deserving of a special shout-out on this Christmas Day:
24th Annual Gary Moore Christmas Meal
Today, dozens of volunteers will come together to feed as many as 800 people who have special needs, are homeless or just need a helping hand in some fashion. Red Lobster is hosting the holiday meal, the only restaurant in the nationwide chain doing such an event today.
Volunteers also will deliver meals door-to-door and make them available to residents in local nursing homes and assisted-living centers and to first-responders on duty today.
9-year-old Damean Ashcraft
Damean’s joy this Christmas comes from the gift of giving.
The Opelika child decided to donate his almost-new bicycle and numerous toys and trinkets to other children at the Family Resource Center’s autism program and to other local children in need.
For his efforts, employees of the center presented Ashcraft a certificate of appreciation and a toy to keep for himself: a new, glow-in-the-dark Nerf ball.
The Tuscaloosa News – Celebrate Christ’s birth on Christmas Day
On the day Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, there is no better occasion to again consider the words of the Gospel according to Luke that tell a story that forever changed the world. Luke 2:1-22 says:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.